The Importance of Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice cream!

Lately, this family has gone crazy over ice cream.

Vanilla, chocolate, coffee, peanut butter. In a cone. In a cup. In a cup with a cone on top. With coffee, with wine ~ sometimes even with a little whiskey poured over the top with a dash of pepper.  (the adults only versions, of course)

I have to admit, prior to this summer, I was never a huge fan, preferring slushes instead. But my skinny malinky long legs boy loves ice cream. And since he needs to gain weight, he gets it. And since we are there, so do we.

All this ice cream has turned us into ice cream connoisseurs, of a sort. We have a few locally made ice cream parlors around us, and we alternate between them on ice cream nights, every time debating the various merits. This one is creamier; that one is more flavorful. This one has a cuter shop; that one is a local tradition.

We can never come to a definitive decision for a winner.

Ice cream is one of those foods, like Proust’s madelines. I feel it is transportive, can connect you with a place or a memory or a feeling with just a bite. All those celebrations, vacations, lazy summer days.

Ice cream makes me think of my grandfather, who was always this strong, quiet presence in my life. He was a man of few words, but I remember so many nights where we load up into his car, always one of those large, plush interior cars, and I would feel so small but safe and cozy in the backseat next to my little brother and mom. He always went to the same place, Calder’s Dairy, with its white chairs that line the glass wall, and in those days, there was always a line out the door. He would  get butter pecan without fail, and I would get chocolate or superman, and then we would all eat in the parking lot, standing about in the glow from the setting sun. Everyone ate their ice cream so fast, except me. They would be finished while I was furiously trying to finish mine to keep up. As night drew on, on those endless summer nights of childhood, my grandpa always took us on a drive before heading home. Occasionally he would point out places he had worked, or the homes of friends from his younger days, but mostly he was silent, and so was I, as we navigated though neighborhoods unfamiliar to me, the empty cup in my hands, the taste of the rich chocolate becoming a memory, one that I would remember now, a married woman with my own child to make ice cream memories with.

It’s All About the Bicycles

Today is a day that Billy and I count down to in the summer – the start of the Tour de France. He is a huge bike guy; I just love the Tour. I am in awe of what these men do, how far they ride, for how long, through the Alps for goodness’ sake. Whole mountain ranges are devoured by their bike tires and sweat. It is an amazing feat, and I am blown away by their tenacity and athleticism. We hope to go and stand on the sidelines one day, cheering them on along the road of some small town in the mountains of France.

Our date night this week was bikecentric – I am not sure if the Detroit Zoo planned it for the week of the Tour on purpose, but if not, good timing on their part! The zoo hosted an evening event, a Bike Safari if you will, where participants could ride their bikes through the winding paths of the zoo, stopping to view the animals along the way. It was family friendly, although it was sponsored by New Belgium Brewery; you just got one of those neat wristbands to prove you were over 21.  Over 800 people attended, and it made for a very fun evening. Despite being so many people in attendance, it was not a difficult ride. I get really nervous if people ride too close to me, I am not a super confident bicyclist. However, there were three different start times, and it really divided everyone up very effectively. People riding were spaced very well, and it only became tricksy a few times, when riders would stop suddenly in front of you to see an animal, rather than biking to the side of the pathway and stopping.

There were three hydration stations set up, and two of them included a 3 – oz sample of New Belgium beer to those who wanted to imbibe. We of course drank our samples, along with the water that was also provided. I am not a super big beer drinker, but I enjoyed my choices! The options were Cirtadelic Tangerine, Fat Tire, Voodoo Ranger IPA, and Dayblazer. I chose Dayblazer and Fat Tire; Billy had Voodoo Ranger and Dayblazer. We also got a can each at the end of the ride as well, same choices. We stuck with two we had already had – me again with the Fat Tire, Billy with the Voodoo Ranger. They were icy cold and delicious after the long hot ride through the zoo. There was a live band at the finish, along with a few food options and the opportunity to purchase more drinks. Alternatively, people could choose to go listen to scientists speak at the reptile house about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project. Nature nerds that we are, we opted for the wolf-moose project, although our beers did come with us.

The two scientists were full of interesting information and facts. We have always wanted to visit Isle Royale, so it was cool to talk to people who have not only been there, but really know the island intimately, and all of her inhabitants. It is a sad scenario though. Right now, there are some 1500 moose on the island. And just two wolves, who are so inbred that the pack is dead. They cannot reproduce. The pack in its heyday numbered 50, at least in as far as scientists have been tracking its numbers. Due to all the inbreeding though, numbers began to fall as they died off. Their health was compromised and a strain of parvo killed a bunch off. The moose are without predators, and while this seems like yay moose ~ it really isn’t, as they may run out of food sources themselves as the island may not be able to support that many moose, unchecked. This is the subject that the scientists we spoke with were studying, the effect of the moose upon the fir, and just how long these moose could be sustained by the fir trees on the island. They eat fir trees, and these fir trees barely have the opportunity to grow, as the moose just eat the heck out of them. An obvious solution would be to introduce a new pack. I would love to see this happen, and have the balance returned to the island.

That is only replica moose scat, btw. Lol. And a kick butt caiman looking at us in the reptile house.

This event was a great time, and well worth the money we paid to do it. It was a wonderful night and we will definitely go again. If you are interested in reading more about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project, you can go here and here. If you are interested in participating (even cooler!) check this out.

 

Front Porch Sittin’

Lately, we have put done our cell phones, turned off the television, and headed outside to the front porch to sit a while, and enjoy the evening with a cold drink or two. Wyatt joins us with his sippy cup of milk, while I sip my own drink of chilled white wine, a summer thing of mine. Billy usually has a craft beer, and we just kick it on the porch for a spell.

These evenings are so peaceful. No phones ringing or dinging, just the three of us chatting away. Occasionally we give a wave to a neighbor, exchange a hello, a word or two, but mostly our little family catches up on the day, just as the day is putting itself to bed. Sometimes, we just enjoy the sounds of the world around us, the small, thriving community that is all around us but haven’t noticed in our daily hustle.

Up and down the block, birds are chirping, tweeting, heading home to their nests, beaks full of insects and other goodies for their growing families. In the big elm across the street, a family of starlings has made their home, deep inside a hollow. Down the street in the maple, you can find a nest full of robins, and across the street from the robins, a couple of nuthatches. Somewhere nearby live the neighborhood Downy woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, cardinals, who always pop by for a visit. I hear the raucous call of a blue jay usually once a day, not to mention all the little brown birds, the black capped chickadees, and finches that twitter and tussle and flit about.

We have our own little bird family, another little group of robins, five in total – momma, dad, and three young babies. Or, rather, they used to be babies. Mom and Dad Robin moved into our maple, building their nest right almost at eye level, in the crook of the tree. We watched the babies, while mom and dad watched us. The babies grew up so fast, and recently flew the nest. We saw the last of these fledglings, standing on the edge of the nest, preparing for first flight. A day or two later, we saw a fledgling hanging out in our apple tree, on the lowest possible branch.

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Used to the all the evening chatter as the birds gossip about their day, we were sitting on the porch when the conversation around us ceased, followed by the loud shriek of a hawk. This new youngling landed right in our neighbor’s tree, on the hunt for something or other. We hope the reason is not related to the sudden presence of this little guy who tried to visit.

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Don’t you just love that little face?? I hope this little guy was adventuring for fun and not because mom became dinner. Cute as he is, he wanted up on our porch and I didn’t want him to visit that close. So we gently shoo’d him a bit, and he took temporary refuge under our apple tree. Hopefully he wandered back home, because he was gone when I checked on him an hour or so later..

It is amazing what you can see right from your own front porch, if you just let yourself sit and just be, for a while. Take away the distractions, get back to a slower, simpler way of living – there is a whole other world living there in front of us. Everywhere you look, there is life. What have you seen lately? How do you unwind?

Tuesday is the New Date Night

Tuesday is our new date night.

Billy and I haven’t had many opportunities to go out since we had Wyatt two years ago; like most parents with new babies, most of our entertainment became stuff we could do at home, with the boy, or family adventure days. Which we love, we love all of our family time. But it was also time to start going out again, the two of us. And my super cool mom noticed, and volunteered to watch Wyatt every Tuesday night so that Billy and  I can go out.

We had out second date night this week. Last week, we weren’t sure what to do with our newfound time, so we took a drive and went back home. This time though, we knew we wanted to have dinner somewhere new. Recently, a few restuarants from Detroit are branching out into the surrounding suburbs, which works well for us, especially now on a tight time budget. I had been wanting to try Bobcat Bonnies for months, and I finally got my chance on date night!

Our pregnant, accented, adorable waitress sat us and handed us the menus, including the very long list of mostly Michigan craft beers. After learning it was also Taco Tuesday, I knew that was the route I was going. My tacos came with a can of beer, which I didn’t want, as I had my eye on a peach basil mule. Billy ordered the beer instead, a Keweenaw Pick Axe. I took a sip and declared it delicious. For food, we started with a tater tot appetizer, because this place is known for their inventive tots. Then I ordered the tacos (the “Rio Bravo” and the vegan chorizo ones) and Billy opted for the kimchi bowl. We both must be wimps – the vegan chorizo was way too spicy for me. Billy had of course expected some heat from his dinner, but the Korean beef pushed it over the top. He ate about half, but still loved it.

Stuffed to the gills, we were going to skip dessert until the waitress mentioned glitter. Yep, they had a unicorn cheesecake, complete with glitter. How do you pass that up? I’ll tell you. You don’t. I don’t even particularly like cheesecake, but it was date night, and we were going all out. Or all in? Whatever, it was worth it! And I didn’t eat that third taco anyway, so eating half of this was a perfectly acceptable trade.

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We headed back home to our little guy full of happy and good food and drink. He was all clean and in his jammies, thanks to grandma. I learned he had a good night too, and had thoroughly enjoyed a hot fudge sundae.

Next date night we have tickets to a bike safari at the Detroit Zoo! I can’t wait to go.

 

Summertime…

Summertime and the living is easy, especially when you are a kid. All that carefree abandon, the long days of no responsibility, full of good times and sunshine. Riding bikes, playing tag as the sun sets, staying up late. Sticky popsicles that run down your hand and arm, lunches that get slightly soggy when eaten after swimming, still in your swimsuit, hair dripping. Running barefoot in the grass, laying out a blanket to read, Capri Sun next to you, because summer to a bookworm also means more time to read. I spent many summers getting to know the Ingalls family, a particular favorite of mine. Reading about Ferdinand the bull, the Poky Little Puppy, Curious George, James Herriot and his Yorkshire Dales and cows and dogs, The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike, my first intro to horror fiction. The list goes on and on.

I remember my mom signing me up every year for the summer reading program. I wasn’t the most athletic kid, and I was quiet and shy, and remember thinking, “Finally, a competition I might be able to win!” I did win, many times actually, as a kid, and even as an adult. I loved (still do) the library in the summer. An oasis of peace, calm, and cold temperatures, to a kid whose family did not have central air. My legs would be freezing, but I didn’t care, as I browsed books like it was my job. Story time was fun too, when I was younger. The Children’s Librarian of my youth became the Library Director and then finally retired, in the years I have been going to my library. A whole career that I was witness to.

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And the tradition continues. On Monday, my sister-in-law Chrissy and I took our kids to the library and signed them up together for summer reading. I don’t remember themes being a thing when I was younger, but our theme for this year is STEAM, which is pretty cool. For Wyatt and L.’s age group, 0-3, we follow the path of a game board, and of course read to the kids. The game board gives us direction – for instance, our first square tells us to read a science book. Chrissy and I scoured the shelves looking for one that would interest us as well as the kids. I ended up choosing a Dr. Seuss animal book, because that counts right? I didn’t end up reading that one to Wyatt though, anyway. Instead I read him a fantastic book from our own collection, called You Are Stardust. I love love love it. I of course signed up for the adult program too, and this year they had a version for “busy moms”, even though I feel like all moms are busy? Also board game format, it is more focused on reading with your family, and doing family activities, rather than reading books just for you on your own. I guess it does make sense really. I chose that one this time. And just like when I was a kid, my fingers are crossed that I win something!

And just because I am no longer that same young and carefree little kid, wearing terry cloth rompers, reading the day away, playing with my cousins, I can still eat popsicles sitting on the front porch, and run around barefoot. And of course, I still do. I’ve also been known to flag down the ice cream man just for a bomb pop.

What about you? What were your summers like?